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Can You Refuse to Work With Someone Who is Unvaccinated?

Posted:  Oct 12, 2021

As of October 11th 2021, more than 82 per cent of Canadians aged 12 and above have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with an additional five per cent having received only one dose. Although the overall rate of vaccination across the country is high, there remains a sizable minority of individuals who are unable or unwilling to be vaccinated.   


As a critical aspect of the efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, increased vaccination rates in B.C. and beyond are linked to dramatically decreased hospitalizations and deaths associated with the ongoing pandemic. 


With high numbers of COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated both in the province and across Canada, many vaccinated British Columbians are asking if they can refuse to work alongside their unvaccinated colleagues. Due to a lack of clear information on the subject from WorkSafeBC, it’s a question with answers that will likely vary between different workplaces. 


Under B.C.’s Workers Compensation Act, being required to work in close physical proximity to an unvaccinated coworker could give someone grounds to refuse unsafe work due to the increased danger posed by the spread COVID-19 variants. 


B.C. residents should take note that many workplaces have issued vaccine-related mandates for their employees without any significant legal issues. These businesses span all industries, and many of them require employees to be vaccinated in order to work at an office. Employers should keep in mind that barring unvaccinated employees from their premises and requiring them to work from home if possible may be the best course of action if possible. In addition to retaining employees, this method is likely to be more successful from a legal standpoint than terminating employees who refuse to be vaccinated.  


It should also be noted that not all workplaces are one and the same when it comes to vaccinated and unvaccinated employees working in close proximity. Workplaces where unvaccinated employees are more capable of working remotely may have more success in both retaining staff and addressing COVID-19 concerns. Workplaces that require employees to work in-person may have to make more difficult decisions. The competing priorities of retaining staff or reducing the risk of workplace related infections will be the focal point of many employers’ plans moving forward. 


At Stevens & Company Law we know that business owners need to make the best choice in protecting their company interests. Our team of lawyers and legal professionals has the expertise to help guide you each step of the way as your business grows and evolves. For further information on our legal services, including corporate law, estate law, First Nations law and more, contact us today by calling us at 250-248-8220 or emailing us at sam@stevenslaw.ca to arrange your appointment.


 

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